National Children's Home

Moved to Harpenden in 1913 and offered employment training to orphaned boys and girls

NCH Printing School
NCH Sewing Room


From the Annual Report 1915, as reported in The Herts Advertiser, 10 July 1915

The article below first appeared in Newsletter 88, May 2002

The National Children’s Home, which had been founded in London in 1869, transferred from London to Harpenden in 1913.  Two years later the annual report said:

“The industrial training is an important part of the work of the National Children’s Home and Orphanage*.  At the institution in Harpenden, under the best possible advantages in well equipped houses and commodious workshops, an excellent opportunity is afforded for equipping the girls and boys for future service.

The printing works are among the best equipped and most modern of such buildings.  Twenty five of the senior boys are here apprenticed as compositors and machinists.

In the carpenters’ and joiners’ shop there are eight apprentices, and in both these departments the boys have invariably done well.  Preliminary training is also given to some boys in the engineers’ department; and in the bootmakers shop, as elsewhere, facilities are afforded for teaching boys who are physically handicapped.

A tailoring department for boys similarly limited has also been started.

Training to be ‘worthy citizens of the Empire’

The large farm of 200 acres is a magnificent training ground for several boys, and when the farm buildings, which are now in the course of erection, are completed, many a youth will have the chance of fitting himself for English or Canadian farm life, and ought to give a good account of himself.

Most of the girls are prepared for domestic service.  In the house, the kitchen, the laundry, and sewing room, each girl has a period of training to fit her to take a suitable situation at the age of sixteen.  A few girls continue for training in the sewing room, and become sewing maids, dressmakers, or knitters.

In the office there is an excellent opportunity for the training of a few girls in shorthand, typewriting, book-keeping, etc.  Occasionally also girls and boys are selected to become pupil teachers, and it is hoped at Harpenden to be able to maintain the good reputation of Bonner Road in this respect.

“Harpenden is still in the process of formation” says “The Children’s Advocate”.  We have not yet our full community, and we are not without hope that in due course, when the branch is completed we shall be able to render such service to our children whereby they shall become worthy citizens of the Empire.”

*Please note that he words ‘and Orphanage’ were officially removed from the name ‘National Children’s Home and Orphanage’ because many of the children in the Homes were not orphans and some remained in touch with their parent/s.

The name of the organisation is now
Action for Children

For further information go to:

To access personal records go to: Contact us | Action For Children

and then go to ‘General Enquiries’


Comments about this page

  • I look after the letterpress equipment at Frogmore Paper Mill in Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, ( and would be interested in any information about the NCH printing school that anyone has and is willing to pass on (and photos).

    Ed: please copy any replies to  so that we have them too!

    By Paul Woolley (11/02/2015)
  • I remember visiting the National Children’s Home as a child in the 1970s. Some children from the Home attended my school but were not engaged in the preparations for domestic service or apprenticeships you describe as being the norm earlier in the century. Care was provided in group homes, each with a family atmosphere run by a ‘mother’ figure.

    By Kate Lightman (27/02/2011)

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